FERSC is a Tier 1 University Transportation Center consortium led by the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Its focus is the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA)’s research priority, Improving Mobility of People and Goods as its primary area. The consortium supports the DOT Strategic Goals of Economic Strength and Global Competitiveness as the primary focus and Equity and Transformation as the secondaries.
Our nation’s freight transportation challenges are immense. The already congested transportation system faces fast-growing freight demands. The annual freight volume is expected to grow from 19 billion tons in 2022 to at least 29 billion tons in 2050, according to the US Bureau of Statistics. In particular, imports and exports account for over 13% of the total freight volume and will grow at a much faster rate than domestic freight. The growth occurs in an environment of often disrupted supply chains. Today’s supply chains are increasingly interconnected, both domestically and internationally. Supply chain disruptions such as the complete lockout of Shanghai, a major global supply location, due to its COVID-19 policy profoundly challenge the operational efficiency of the US domestic freight system, particularly in coastal areas. Supply chain irregularities caused by natural disasters and political instabilities take a toll on the U.S. economy and even threaten national security (White House Report 14017, 2021). When COVID-19 disrupted the supply chain, commodity prices within the PPI indexed group rose by 19% from May 2020 to May 2021 (Whitehouse Report, 2021). A 2021 U.S. Census Bureau survey illustrates the devastating cost to the nation: Businesses—over 60% in manufacturing, 58% in construction, 55% in retail, etc.—experienced domestic supplier delay caused by freight issues and the disrupted supply chain. Motivated and obligated by this situation, our work addresses freight mobility in view of supply chain efficiency and resiliency.